Yolanda: See­ing be­yond

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Ros­alie O. Abatayo CORRESPONDENT EDITED BY Rose­marie Hol­ganza-Bor­romeo

“Hindi da­pat mat­a­pos sa isang delubyo ang buhay ng tao (A per­son’s life should not end after a dis­as­ter). “

This was what 43-year-old Lani Navales kept in mind after the havoc of Typhoon Yolanda did not leave a roof for her fam­ily i n Tolosa town, Leyte prov­ince in Novem­ber of 2013.

Navales, a mother of six, re­called how she and her fam­ily clung on to a dev­as­tated evac­u­a­tion cen­ter with an eight­month-old daugh­ter tied in her arms, just to sur­vive the wrath of the Philip­pines worst ever trop­i­cal cy­clone.

“Nakita ng dalawang mata ko yung hugis at lakas ng han­gin na pwe­deng ku­mi­til sa buhay namin. Nakita ko yung tubig. It was a mat­ter of sec­onds bago kami nakaakyat sa bubong ng evac­u­a­tion [cen­ter] at saka bu

mi­gay yung pader ng build­ing (I saw with my own two eyes the shape and strength of the winds that could have killed us. I saw the wa­ters. It was a mat­ter of sec­onds be­fore we man­aged to go up the roof of the evac­u­a­tion cen­ter and then the wall gave in),” Navales told CEBU DAILY NEWS.

“Mi­la­gro talaga (It was re­ally a mir­a­cle we sur­vived),” she added.

What was harder, ac­cord­ing to Navales, was how to re­build their lives after the tragedy.

“Mahi­rap kasi wala tala­gang natira sa iyo kundi sar­ili mo lang. Paano ka mag­sisim­ula? Saan mo kukunin yung shel­ter para sa malak­ing pam­ilya na kin­abibi­lan­gan ko, may anim

akong anak (It was hard be­cause noth­ing was left ex­cept our­selves. How do we be­gin? Where will I get shel­ter for my big fam­ily. I have six kids),” Navales said.

Navales re­called that they had to pick up what­ever was left by the tragedy like toma­toes and fallen co­conuts just to have some­thing to eat as it took over a week be­fore re­lief goods reached her place.

But if Yolanda taught her a les­son, Navales said it would be that the world had so much to of­fer and she had a lot to give in re­turn de­spite los­ing ev­ery ma­te­rial pos­ses­sion in life.

“Nagsim­ula sa walang alam ta­pos lu­mi­pat ka sa re­al­iza­tion na ang lawak pala ng mundong ak­ing kin­abibi­lan­gan. Doon ko naram­daman kung ano yung ha­laga ko sa buhay na ito. Doon ko nakita. Tin­u­ruan ako kung paano hanapin ang sar­ili ko bi­lang isang in­di­vid­ual na may lakas at nakatago lang pala (I started with not know­ing any­thing un­til I reached the re­al­iza­tion that the world I’m in is wide and it was then that I felt that my life mat­tered. I learned to find my­self as an in­di­vid­ual with a hid­den strength),” said Navales.

Navales’ re­al­iza­tion came after in­ter­na­tional non-gov­ern- ment or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) came to build the Tukod pro­ject for Yolanda-stricken com­mu­ni­ties of Sa­mar and Leyte prov­inces in 2015.

Tukod pro­ject is a sus­tain­able liveli­hood pro­ject for the women of the dev­as­tated com­mu­ni­ties.

Funded by the Canadian govern­ment, Canada-based NGO Cen­ter for In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies and Co­op­er­a­tion (CECI), and the Philip­pines-based Cen­ter for Emer­gency Aid and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion (Con­cern, Inc.), the pro­ject pro­vided seed cap­i­tal of up to P25,000 to in­di­vid­ual women en­trepreneurs who wanted to start a busi­ness.

Navales joined pro­ject Tukod and re­vived the hand­i­craft liveli­hood of her fa­ther with her hus­band Al­fredo, us­ing the seed cap­i­tal given by Tukod.

‘TUKOD’

At a glance, Tukod has en­gaged 27,500 in­di­vid­u­als in sus­tain­able eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties; pro­vided skills train­ing to at least 10,000 peo­ple; and helped around 500 women, in­clud­ing Navales, es­tab­lish small and medium en­ter­prises (SMEs) in their com­mu­ni­ties.

The pro­ject looks at the eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment of women in calamity-stricken re­gions as a sus­tain­able strat­egy to help the fam­i­lies get back on their feet.

“Hindi ko masasabing maya­man kami. Lu­maki ako sa isang

Noth­ing was left ex­cept our­selves. How do we be­gin? Where will I get shel­ter for my big fam­ily. — Yolanda sur­vivor Lani Navales

mahi­rap na pam­ilya. Nasa lay­layan ng lipunan. Pero meron akong anak ngay­ong ga- grad­u­ate ng

ac­coun­tancy, la­hat ng iba kung anak ay nag-aaral (We are not rich. I grew up in a poor fam­ily at the bot­tom­most part of so­ci­ety. But I have a child now about to grad­u­ate from ac­coun­tancy and all my other chil­dren are in school), ” Navales said while try­ing to hold back her tears as she told their story to CDN.

Aside from pro­vid­ing sus­tain­able liveli­hood to vic­tims of Yolanda, Tukod, through a cam­paign called ‘Rise!’, also pro­motes gen­der sen­si­tiv­ity in the calamity-dev­as­tated ar­eas though com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions.

(CBOs) in ar­eas se­verely-hit by Yolanda, go around their re­gion to give talks about gen­der em­pow­er­ment, gen­der sen­si­tiv­ity and the women’s role in ris­ing above the chal­lenges of dis­as­ter.

Navales, to­gether with other Rise lead­ers Fe Aballe, Jamil­lahlyn Mo­ron and Anasta­cia Esquilona of Palo, Leyte, found a new mis­sion after ris­ing be­tond the dev­as­ta­tion wrought by Yolanda: To in­spire other women, who went through the same sit­u­a­tion, that there is still life

after the tragedy.

“I want to be an in­spi­ra­tion to oth­ers. Yung iba after Yolanda went to the big cities to look for jobs, but that is not the only key to rise. Kami mismo,

bawat isa, (We are proof, each of us that) we are an op­por­tu­nity. We just have to dis­cover what we have and what we can of­fer to in­spire oth­ers,” said Fe Aballe, one of the gen­der fa­cil­i­ta­tors from Ta­cloban City who also sur­vived Yolanda.

“Yung i ba, na­natili silang lugmok, di nila alam kung paano tu­mayo. Tay­ong malalakas, ma­n­atili tay­ong malakas up­ang ipakita natin sa kanila yung bi­gay na lakas ng Pangi­noon at maba­ha­gian natin sila ng

lakas na tu­mayo (Oth­ers re­mained help­less not know­ing how to re­cover; but we are stronger and we will re­main strong so that we can show to oth­ers the strength God has given us and share this with oth­ers so they will also have the strength to get up), ” Navales added.

On the 5th year an­niver­sary of Typhoon Yolanda yes­ter­day, Novem­ber 8, the women lead­ers vis­ited Cebu for a photo ex­hibit that de­picts the tragedy and how the com­mu­ni­ties slowly be­gan to rise again.

CDN PHOTO/ JUNJIE MEN­DOZA

Mall­go­ers at SM Sea­side view the photo ex­hibits of the vic­tims of Su­per Typhoon Yolanda.

CDN PHOTO/ JUNJIE MEN­DOZA

Lani Navales (se­cond from right) with (left to right) Jamil­la­lynn Mo­ron, Anat­a­cio Pe­tra Eskilona and Fe Aballe shad tears as they re­count their or­deal in the wake of Supe rty­phoon Yolanda’s wake.

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